If your loved one died at an amusement park because of the carelessness or intentional act of someone else, the surviving loved ones and the estate can go after money damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. The first step in evaluating whether you have a wrongful death case is to determine if the defendant is legally responsible for the death of your close relative.
How to Establish Liability for Wrongful Death
One of the most common legal theories underlying wrongful death lawsuits is negligence, meaning that someone made a mistake that caused another person to die. Georgia law can make a person liable for wrongful death if the plaintiff can prove all four of these factors:
- Duty of care. The person who caused the death must have owed the victim a legal duty of care. An amusement park has the duty to take reasonable measures to keep park visitors safe while they enjoy the attractions.
- Breach of the duty of care. When someone fails to meet the standards of the duty of care, it is negligence. Let's say that your loved one died as a result of injuries received when the safety equipment on a roller coaster vehicle failed. Operating a roller coaster with flawed safety equipment is negligence.
- Causation. The negligence must be the thing that caused the accident and the injury. If the safety harness and lap bar had worked properly, the victim would have remained in the roller coaster cart and not sustained injuries. The negligent act of running a ride with malfunctioning safety devices caused the injury and resulting death.
- Measurable damages. To be a beneficiary of a wrongful death lawsuit, one must have suffered quantifiable damages. Loss of the financial support or services of the decedent are examples of measurable damages.
How a Wrongful Death Can Happen at an Amusement Park
Amusement parks are jam-packed with features that would make a risk manager cringe. To a certain extent, people assume the risk of minor harm when visiting one of these facilities. For example, when riding a roller coaster, you might get a small bruise from bumping against the side of the cart when the attraction goes around a sharp turn at high speed.
You do not, however, expect that the safety harness and lap bar will fail, causing the rider to fly out of the vehicle during the ride. Safety features are on amusement park rides for a reason, and when the devices are flawed, people can get hurt and killed.
There is practically no end to the ways a person can suffer a fatal injury at an amusement park. One could:
- Fall from a great height
- Get struck by heavy equipment
- Get hit by an object someone overhead dropped from another ride
Damages for Wrongful Death in Georgia
The personal representative of the estate of the deceased person can seek to recover expenses like the funeral and burial expenses and the final medical bills. The family cannot pursue these damages because the personal representative has the task of trying to restore assets to the estate that were taken from the estate by the wrongful actions of others.
Also, if the decedent could have pursued a claim for damages like pain and suffering from the injury, the estate can seek a recovery for items like this as well. The estate gets to go after these damages because it stands in the shoes of the decedent.
The loved ones of the deceased person can seek compensation for other losses, such as the full value of the decedent's life. The full value of the life under Georgia law means the economic losses, typically the earnings he would have earned if he had lived to full life expectancy, and non-economic losses, like the loss of companionship. Georgia does not deduct from the expected earnings the amount that the decedent would have had to spend on living expenses.
Sometimes we can ask for punitive damages in addition to the standard money damages. We have to prove that the person who caused the loved one's death exhibited a conscious disregard for the safety of others or acted intentionally (in other words, it was not an accident).
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against an Amusement Park
The determination of who can bring a lawsuit will depend on the facts of the case. The decedent's estate can always file a lawsuit to restore the assets to the estate, but the family member who can sue for wrongful death can vary. The surviving spouse can file a lawsuit if the decedent was an adult. If an unmarried adult dies as a result of someone else's wrongful action, any child of the decedent can bring the lawsuit.
When a child dies, a surviving spouse or child of the deceased child can bring a wrongful death claim. The parents of the deceased child can file the lawsuit if the decedent left no surviving spouse or offspring.
Getting Help for a Wrongful Death Claim from an Amusement Park
S. Burke Law can help you evaluate whether you might have a claim for wrongful death if you suspect that someone's carelessness or intentional act caused the death of your close relative. Please call us today at 404-474-0804 to get a free consultation. There is no obligation.